Saturday, May 29, 2021

Alaska, here I come!

Well, my bags are packed and I'm ready to go! And if you read/heard that line sung in John Denver's voice, you're showing your age. :)

Regular readers know where I'm headed: Storyknife in Homer, Alaska. This writer's retreat is the dream of Dana Stabenow made real and I'm thrilled to be in the first group of writers to stay in the cabins and fulfill my own dream of having time away from real life to do nothing but live in the world inside my head and write down what I see.

You know those Internet memes that picture some remote cabin and say, "Would you stay here with no Internet, no video games, no TV for one million dollars?" My answer is always a resounding "YES!" Actually, I'd do it for free. So this opportunity to spend time with five other writers, each in our own cabin, is perfect. We'll meet up each day for dinner and companionship, which I've learned over the years IS actually something I enjoy (although for a cool mil? I'd forgo it for a month), but spend our days on our respective projects.

And, unlike other writer's residencies I've looked at, there is no teaching requirement, no word output goal, no demand on our time. This is our time to spend as we each need to. A true luxury.

As for me, I'm setting myself a word-count goal of 3-5000 words per day. Yes, that's putting some pressure on myself, but the key here is: I'm putting the pressure on myself. No one else is. No one else is making me do anything (except my own laundry and I'm good with that - I do some of my best thinking while folding underwear. Really!). I just can't envision myself flying all the way across the country, from the Finger Lakes to Cook Inlet, spending an entire month away from home, and spending money on airline tickets only to come home not having written much. I feel I HAVE to produce SOMETHING.

And I can't wait. I leave tomorrow morning. My hubby is mending well (his partial knee replacement has been a huge success) and my son is here to take care of him. I didn't bother planting much of a garden this year - only garlic down at the cabin (which is another whole mess and source of stress that is a story for another time. Suffice it to say, the cabin is NOT a restful place right now. Evcn in the best of years, it still requires maintenance - which I will not have to do in Alaska. Another reason to be grateful for Dana's dream made real!).

See you in a month!

Play safe and get vaccinated,

Diana

Thursday, May 20, 2021

It's been two months...

...and as a writer, you'd think I'd have the words to express the stress I lived these past several weeks. But I am still too close and I can only explain my absence from all things social media the best way I know how: with a story.

March was fairly normal, to be honest. The country's troubles were still the country's troubles, winter was subsiding (although still very much with us here in the Northeast), and life went on much as it always had, with one notable exception: because of recent surgeries, my dad could no longer drive himself to dialysis three times a week. Heck, he couldn't drive - period. So I'd visit him on Wednesdays to be social and on Saturdays to take him to his dialysis appointment.

The fact that the treatment, week-by-week, was taking longer and longer should've clued me in.

It didn't.

By Saturday, April 3rd, he was exhausted all the time. His energy levels were low and he napped often. I took him for a dialysis treatment that took four hours to complete. His earlier treatments took a little over two, for comparison. I promised to come see him on Monday and made sure he'd eaten, then went home.

I kept my promise, but he had no more energy on Monday than he'd had on Saturday. And on Tuesday, he called to tell me he wasn't going to keep his appointment and had cancelled the transportation that was supposed to take him. I dropped what I was doing and headed up (takes me about 40 minutes to get from my door to his).

He informed me he'd made his decision - no more dialysis. It had become a zero-sum proposition: he was as tired when he came out as he was when he went in. I asked him if he understood what stopping meant and he nodded and said he was ready.

And so the long month of April began.

I spent every day with him, knowing there weren't that many left. We’d spend the afternoons reading – he on his tablet where he could make the font big and me lugging Brandon Sanderson’s new tome with me every day. He’d find videos of music he liked on YouTube and play them for me; I showed him how to use Netflix to find old war movies. He told me stories, some of which were brand new, some of which I’d heard a hundred times. But I listened to them again, knowing I was hearing them for the last time.

I'd go home every night, thankful that the clocks had changed and I could at least do some of the drive while it was still light out. Dad decided the only thing that tasted good were Wendy's Frostys - so we ate a lot of those. At one point, he realized he could have a beer any time he wanted, so he had half a can one morning before noon. The next day he had another and a third the day after that. Then he decided he'd had enough over the years and he was done with beer. And done with Frostys. And pretty much done with everything. At that point, I pretty much moved into his apartment with him and stayed 24/7 so I could give him his pain meds when he woke at night and let him know he wasn't alone.

He died on Friday, April 30th. We'd moved him to a hospice house since he couldn't swallow the pain pills any more and at Hildebrandt Hospice they could give him injections of the pain meds. He fell asleep on Wednesday and never woke up.

I was with him and watched as his breathing slowed. Then, between one breath and the one that never came, his body relaxed and he was gone. It was both beautiful and heartbreaking.

Along came May.

And with it, the funeral, the breaking up of the household, the getting rid of the car - and my husband's partial knee replacement.

Yes, you read that right. Out of one fire and into the next. While I'm doing all of the above, I'm also taking care of my True Love. And I don't mind. In fact, I enjoy it. And he's doing well. Only a few grumpy days - and those because of a by-product of the pain meds that didn't allow a certain bodily function to, well, function. And once it did - do NOT stand between him and the bathroom! J

In between the closing out of one life, the nursing of another, I’m also getting ready to travel to Homer, Alaska – clear on the other side of the continent – to enjoy a writer’s residency at Storyknife. I’d been accepted for last year but, because of COVID, the entire season was cancelled and we were all rescheduled for this year.

I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to be going. Not only because I need a break from real life here (which I do need – desperately!), but because I’m going to get to spend an entire month with other writers, talking shop, and writing. Writing! Something I haven’t been able to do for months now.

So far, I’ve made four copies of the story I’ll be working on while I’m there. One printed out and bound so I can read it (and edit) on the plane, one on my laptop, and two on flashdrives – one which will be with me and one which will go in my checked bag. I managed some time last night to go through my shoes – and toss out three pair that were beyond use (rubber soles should NOT disintegrate just from being in a closet for several years!) and donated a half a dozen pairs to Goodwill – all because I needed to figure out what ones I wanted to take with me. Nevermind that I haven’t even begun to think about what clothes to bring!

(Notice that the project I’ll be working on is packed and ready to go and what I’ll put on my back isn’t even on the list of things to do yet. Writers! Insert eyeroll.)

It is also worth noting that another reason I’m super-excited has to do with the fact that I get to see Tielle St. Clare – a fellow Sizzlin’ Scribe and a writer friend from our days with Ellora’s Cave. I’m spending a few days with her bookended on the residency and I can’t wait (“bookended” – see what I did there?)!

So I have a little over a week to finish cleaning Dad’s place (should be done by Saturday, keep your fingers crossed!), be with my hubby as he gets his staples out (ouch!), and pack (clothes – don’t forget to bring clothes!).

Stress levels? As I said to my doc yesterday, my plate is so full, it’s overflowing and things are falling off the side. And what does fall? I’m too tired to pick up. She said she’s glad I’m getting away for a while. My hubby says to consider this time as a retreat.

I agree with both of them.

You haven’t heard from me for the past two months because I was taking care of my dad and my husband. You’re not going to hear from me for the next month because I’m going to be taking care of me.

In the meantime,

Play safe, get vaccinated, and stay healthy!

Diana

 


Sunday, March 07, 2021

Two Reasons to Celebrate - St. Patrick's Day and a Book Sale!

      Not only is St. Patrick's Day quickly approaching, but nthis week is Read An Ebook Week - and what better way to celebrate than by reading stories by Irish authors - or at least, Irish-American authors (that's me!).

     Starting today, Sunday, March 7th, Shadows of the Past and Stitches in Time will be on sale at Smashwords for 25% off. You can download any format you wish, all are on sale.

Lynn LaFleur created the 
cover, but the castle pic
is mine!
  
     



      Did you know I took the photos for both covers? My husband and I visited Ireland in 2016 and I took the picture of Glenquin Castle - a place I definitely wanted to visit, since it played a major role in Stitches in Time. Of course, after visiting, I made a few adjustments to the story. Reading about a place didn't give me the details I found when I actually stood on the grounds (and drove on Irish roads!). 

That's O'Brien's Tower in the 
distance.



     



           The picture on the cover of Shadows of the Past is of O'Brien's Tower at the Cliffs of Moher. Yep.. We not only walked a portion of the Burren Way, we also went to the top of the tower (and took more pictures. Lots. More. Pictures.).





And just for good measure, I've thrown Hardship and Hardtack into this sale. Because this is an historical, rather than erotic romance, it's been published under my own (real) name: C. F. Duprey. I've never put it on sale like this before, so here's your chance to get it at 25% off!

Sale starts TODAY - and goes through the week. 



Happy Reading :)

Monday, March 01, 2021

Reading and Writing...and no Arithmetic

The Celebrity Summit - July 2019
probably the last cruise ship I'll ever sail

So I took February off from social media - mostly. I also refrained from reading the news - again, mostly, sticking to weather reports and local COVID updates. It was time I got back to a story I started after my last cruise (doesn't that sound high? My LAST cruise, because, you know, I go on so many. Okay, three. I've been on three. And I will probably never go again. Thanks, Pandemic - which I capitalize to give it the Importance It Deserves). Anyway...I'd started an erotic romance (yes, I KNOW. I said I was done with that genre, but sometimes the characters just leap out of my imagination and onto the page and who am I to deny them their pleasure?), and decided it was high time I got back to those characters and nudge them forward in their story.

I didn't do as well as I'd hoped, but I did add another 3000 words to the story, mostly in the beginning of the month. Still a little hard to concentrate, what with all that's going on, but life is moving forward - and so is Maisy and Scott's story. No title as of yet - toying with RomantiaCruise, or Romancing the Seas - but both sound pretty 70's, don't they?

Reading, however, I have covered. I'm including both my January and February reading lists as I didn't update my January post (I was taking a break, remember?). You'll note I read 18 books in the first eight weeks of the year. Yeah. Escape is my coping strategy right now.

January

Besides the two books by Julia Quinn: The Duke and I, and The Viscount Who Loved Me, read in preparation for watching Bridgerton on Netflix, I also read the entire Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass and City of Fallen Angels.

February

Finished the last book in the Mortal Instruments series: City of Heavenly Fire. Overall, the series was enjoyable, even if the writing was uneven.

Clanlands by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish - Two teenage boys let loose (a friend called them "frat boys" - but I don't think they're that entitled. More like little boys told to go play). Am looking forward to their series, Men In Kilts.

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Spakowski - this is the first in The Witcher series. I've tried the Netflix series, but kind of lost interest after five or so episodes. This book seems to take place WAY before the series does, and it might've been better for Netflix to have started where the books did. Interesting to read a translation - sometimes there's a bit of awkwardness in the sentences, but it's a good (if bloody) story.

And then, because I needed a break from the blood and gore: seven Julia Quinn books in a row: An Offer From A Gentleman, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, To Sir Phillip with Love, Because of Miss Bridgerton, When He was Wicked, It's in his Kiss, and The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband. What can I say? When one needs an escape, Regency's are wonderful. And Ms. Quinn writes with flair.

On the last Saturday of the month I found myself with time on my hands - and chose to spend it at Barnes and Noble. I have a stack of unread books from both Christmas and my birthday, plus at least three dozen I've picked up here and there but not yet cracked the bindings on. So naturally I bought five more books!

One I finished today, but will count in February's total, since the bulk of it was read this past weekend - and it is one I HIGHLY RECOMMEND: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. It probably deserves it's own post, but I'm still carrying the book inside my head and can really do no more than make a recommendation. I'll roll it around my thoughts for several days - going back to it in my head and re-living parts. In a few months, I'll pick it up and read it again, knowing there are more levels, and wanting to revisit the characters. And maybe then I'll be able to make coherent statements other than the banal, "Good book, read it."

That catches me up. Hope you are all doing well. It's storming here again (windstorm with snow this time), so staying put tonight. Play safe, and wear a mask!

Diana

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

New year, new books!

 Well, some new books...for me, anyway.

Once I realized the Netflix series, Bridgerton, was loosely based on Julia Quinn's books, I decided to reread The Duke and I (the first in the series) - and I did this for several reasons. Primarily, I wanted to enjoy the characters with my own pictures in my head before watching the series and getting someone else's pictures in my head. I also read (for the first time) The Viscount Who Loved Me since I wasn't sure if the filmed series would stick to one book at a time or mix the stories all together and tell pieces of each as it went along.

For my review of the series, click here.

For Christmas, my hubby bought me my favorite presents: books. Because I wanted to watch Bridgerton, I didn't immediately delve into any of the three fantasy series he got me this year (THREEE!!!!). After binging the Netflix series, I decided to wait on reading any more of Quinn's books (I have most of them already and they all bear multiple re-reads) and dive head-first into the longest of the fantasy series he bought me: The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. To that end, I've read the first book, City of Bones.

Yes, I know there's some anti-Clare readers out there and I perused the "controversy." I have not yet read the Mortal Engines series, but on the surface, I'm not seeing much in the way of similarities. Does Clare use several fantasy tropes? Of course. Did J.K. Rowling rip off some of Tolkien? Of course! Doesn't make her a bad writer - it's just her take on a particular story (for the record, take a look at my workshop on the 36 Dramatic Situations - there just aren't that many plots out there!)

Anyway, while there are some sentences I rewrote in my head (hard to find an author where I DON'T do that!), overall I enjoyed it and plan to start the next book today.

With all that's going on in the US right now, I could use an escape into another world.

Play safe!

Diana

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Bridgerton review

 Bridgerton

 I am four episodes in and actually enjoying it for what it is, not for what snobs *think* it should be.

 Let me explain…

 I have read several of Julia Quinn’s Regency romances set in the English world she created (there are several parts, and not all of them are focused on the Bridgerton’s. I enjoyed the Smyth-Smith books and the Rokesby series as well), but have read only a few of the actual Bridgerton books, including The Duke and I, the first in the series. Before watching the first episode of Netflix’s series, I re-read the book, since I knew from the trailer that something wonky was going on with the filmed version.

 Apparently that something wonky has thrown a LOT of people into a tizzy worthy of a snooty Regency debutante.

 Okay, so the costumes aren’t historically accurate. And the casting of people of color isn’t historically authentic. And the additional plot points aren’t in the book.

 So what?

 Truly.

 So. What.

 I know, coming from me, that sounds sacrilegious. But these are Regency romances. They’re fantasies where the heroine always gets the Rich Husband and hero always behaves with Honor and they both live Happily Ever After. And the Netflix series doesn’t mess with that part.

 To be honest, I thought the mixed-race casting was going to bother me. It doesn’t. Not even a little bit. In fact, at one point, I was watching the queen and thought to myself, “This is actually quite wonderful. How many little girls of color have never seen themselves in these books because of, well, history. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to have the same dreams of going to a ball, of finding a handsome, kind, rich husband?” It made sense to me.

 This series is a fairy tale. A charming, fun, fairy tale, and it makes no bones about it. From the costume “mistakes” (they are choices, by the way, not mistakes – and can we say Hamilton? You can’t complain about the costumes of Bridgerton if you’re not also going to complain to Lyn Manuel), to the casting of the characters, the creators of this series are celebrating a glittering world most of us would love to escape to. And I, for one, am enjoying the escape.

 I’d be remiss if I didn’t complement them on one other point: the lack of opportunity for women during that time period. That point they’ve kept quite historical. Women were property. So were children. The creators have dealt with those realities quite forcefully, as did Julia Quinn in her books. In that, they did not stray. That lack of rights makes for desperation on the part of the women, a desperation that is a common thread in Regency romances – and in many people’s real-life lives. I’m glad they have emphasized the point. It shows how far women have come – and how differently we treat children today.

 Overall, I am enjoying the series. It captures the light-hearted spirit of Quinn’s books – and yet is dissimilar enough that I can keep my own version of her characters in my head (something no other book-to-movie/TV series has done, despite my best efforts to hang onto Claire Randall Fraser). I give the series a resounding thumbs-up!

Play safe,

Diana